Students at Skinners Kent Academy in England had the opportunity to work with a local farm during their week long NXplorers programme.
The farm is committed to finding sustainable solutions to food and farming issues and recognises the interconnectedness of environmental, social, economic and political aspects of sustainability. They also have a commitment to positive action – the perfect context in which to apply NXthinking.
One of the challenges the farm shared with the NXplorers was the success of their Grow-to-Grow programme, a social enterprise project for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people aged 14-24. The farm needed to find ways to increase the size of their Grow-to-Grow allotment to accommodate more volunteers, but without increasing cost or energy use. The NXplorers started by using the NXtools to explore the financial and political context of the existing project.
After that, the NXplorers were able to use the create tools to identify some possible futures that would enable the allotment to expand. One idea was to create some water butts to collect rainwater for use on the allotment. Another was to build upwards rather than outwards to increase production. These ideas and others were tested using the feasibility funnel and plans were drawn up to show how they could be implemented.
Another challenge being faced by the farm was to find a more sustainable way to fuel their tractors. The farm has already installed solar thermal panels and uses biomass energy for their onsite heating and water as part of their ongoing commitment to becoming a low carbon emissions site. Diesel tractor fuel doesn’t fit their preferred future.
The NXplorers used the NXtools to explore alternative fuel ideas. Their research uncovered a potential solution in the humble potato! Their possible future scenario saw tractors at the farm being fuelled by ethanol, a liquid they could get by fermenting potatoes. The group even worked out how many potatoes they would need to make it sustainable!
The NXplorers programme gave the students at Skinners Kent Academy the opportunity to identify some real, practical solutions to real, sustainability challenges faced by the farm. The farm manager was really interested in their ideas and the NXthinking that brought them about. Applying the NXtools to such a forward thinking enterprise was both exciting and rewarding for the students, and the skills they have learned will help them find positive solutions to other complex situations they come across.